The Uncanny Valley – are we seeking to mimic human performance in CGI?29/05/12
The medium maybe film, broadcast, games, advertising or print but the ultimate goal is always the same, in that we are striving to achieve the pinnacle of realism. Whether this is a stylised realism, such as the hyper reality you would see in a campaign such as Kalbitor, or whether this is a physically accurate realism films such as Planet of The Apes are striving for, is almost irrelevant. They all emanate from the same fundamental principle. Reality.
The June 2012 issue of Creative Review explores whether CG will ever be able to create believable CG humans in close up and spoke to us at TJ for our opinion. The magazine indeed asks whether the quest is one even worth undertaking. If real human performance is required, then using humans to perform is always going to more commercially viable. TJ’s Lead CGI Artist, Mark Knowles, ponders this question.
Our industry is an ever changing beast and as a consequence it is essential to be at the forefront of technological development. It’s our responsibility to be able to provide our clients with a production path which is both effective and good value, so we are regularly testing new software on personal projects and through the challenges we face with commissioned work.
We recently created a photorealistic kangaroo for DDB and Emerson, which was notoriously challenging from a technical perspective. We had to utilise a new product called “hairfarm” which has made advances in shading algorithms and grooming tools to achieve the level of realism our client needed in the tight timescales allocated.
Despite rapid advances in rendering algorithms, fracturing dynamics and muscle systems, which simulate the movement of muscles under skin, there is no replacement for good old-fashioned observation. Observation and a fundamental artistic eye will always be 70% of the battle. At Taylor James, we place great emphasis on honing these creative skills with all of our artists and they are constantly going back to real-world references. The technology is a tool, and it can make us quicker, more efficient, and allow us to push the boundaries of accuracy. But unless you know what ‘physically accurate’ looks like, you will never achieve it, in spite of the technology.
Our industry stems from a traditional arts background and you can see more and more of these techniques being utilised in software today. The techniques never change, the software just gets faster. Digital sculpting programs such as Zbrush and Mudbox, or painting programs such as Mari and body paint are all based off of foundation principles of sculpting clay and painting images, which stem back thousands of years. We have used these tools in productions such as for Invega, which depicts a woman shedding her old skin. Skin elements were captured on the photographic shoot, using a specific lighting setup to produce clean textures for the CG artists.
Having said this, without a keen eye for detail these projects wouldn’t have been possible.
The VFX industry is always exciting, challenge breeds innovation and this often results in techniques which help us transcend the boundaries of manually recreating characters and objects in the computer. 3d scanning has brought a new way of obtaining 3D data and we have used this to our clients benefit on a recent whisky project. Often clients come to us for something they can’t achieve in reality, such as an elaborate camera move or a more perfect, controlled and pristine version of their products.